(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

Madonna dell'Impannata

Oil on wood, 158 x 125 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

In the mid-1510s Raphael had passed from the highly synthetic and expressive compositions of the first years of the decade to representations which were more and more complex and even more dispersive. Most of these were also finished by his pupils, for this was the busiest moment in Raphael's career.

The Madonna dell'Impannata in the Pitti Gallery in Florence was also painted with the help of assistants. According to some critics, the assistants executed the entire painting. But others see the master's hand at least in the major figures (some say in the Christ Child, some in St Elizabeth, some in both figures). The composition is innovative in respect to the usual iconography of the holy family. It shows St Catherine, St Elizabeth, Christ, the Virgin and St John gathered together in a group. A large tent is visible in the background and a window covered by linen (the impannata, or cloth covering of a window, which gives the painting its name) can be seen at the extreme right. Like many other works by Raphael, this painting was carried off by the French in 1799 and was not returned until after the Congress of Vienna, in 1815.